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The Juno Charm / Nuala Ní Chonchúir

The Juno Charm

By: Nuala Ní Chonchúir

€12.00 €9.00
In the tapestry that is The Juno Charm, award-winning writer Nuala Ní Chonchúir explores the worlds of two marriages – one waning, one waxing – and the pain of pregnancy loss and fertility struggles. This is an intimate book where the reader is taken by the emotional resonance of the poems, as much as by the exploration of the us...
ISBN 978-1-907056-64-2
Pub Date Thursday, November 10, 2011
Cover Image Midnight Peacock by Anni Betts -
Page Count 76
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In the tapestry that is The Juno Charm, award-winning writer Nuala Ní Chonchúir explores the worlds of two marriages – one waning, one waxing – and the pain of pregnancy loss and fertility struggles. This is an intimate book where the reader is taken by the emotional resonance of the poems, as much as by the exploration of the use of amulets and charms. The poems travels comfortably from County Galway – as in the wry ‘Frida Kahlo Visits Ballinasloe’ – to Manhattan’s skyscrapers; and from the Seine in Paris to Dublin’s Liberty Hall. Ní Chonchúir once again employs her signature sensual frankness in poems of love and the body (‘I am the pomegranate / and you, the peacock // My seedy, red-pulped core / glistens with juice, / awaits your entrance’). Sometimes irreverent, always vivid, this is poetry ripe with imaginative possibility and wit.

To read The Juno Charm is to encounter a writer who is modern, white, female and Irish, whose work both charms and challenges. Nuala Ní Chonchúir reveals herself yet again as a witty and energetic purveyor of the happiness and pleasure that lie on the far side of the wall of common experience, and that are to be discovered simply by following the natural path to our most physical and erotic selves. The reader encounters a passionate, observing citizen of Ireland, who is witness to the changing face of her home country. She also observes the world beyond the island, as lover, parent, and – significantly – as a committed artist exploring territories created by other artists.  The result is something of a force in full spate, enriched with the poetics of self-discovery and of an experience that is Blakesean, and well beyond innocence.  Mary O’Donnell

Nuala Ní Chonchúir

Nuala Ní Chonchúir is a novelist, poet and short fiction writer. She was born in Dublin in 1970 and educated at Trinity College, Dublin, Dublin City University and NUI Galway. Her first full poetry collection Molly’s Daughter appeared in the ¡DIVAS! Anthology New Irish Women’s Writing (Arlen House). Her bilingual poetry collection Tattoo:Tatú (Arlen House, 2007) was shortlisted for the 2008 Rupert and Eithne Strong Award. A pamphlet Portrait of the Artist with a Red Car (Templar, 2009) was one of four winners of the 2009 Templar Poetry Pamphlet competition.
    Nuala’s début novel You (New Island, 2010) was called ‘a heart-warmer’ by The Irish Times and ‘a gem’ by The Irish Examiner. Her third short story collection Nude (Salt, 2009) was shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize.
    Nuala teaches creative writing part-time and has won many literary prizes, including RTÉ Radio’s Francis MacManus Award, the inaugural Cúirt New Writing Prize, the inaugural Jonathan Swift Award and the Cecil Day Lewis Award. She has twice been nominated for a Hennessy Award, and was awarded Arts Council Bursaries in Literature in 2004 and 2009.
   Her poetry and fiction have been published and anthologised in Ireland, the UK, France, Canada, Australia and the USA; and have been broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 and Lyric FM. Her residencies have included a poetry writing project with long-term elderly residents in Merlin Park Hospital, Galway, and Writer-in-Residence at the Cúirt International Festival of Literature. Nuala lives in County Galway with her husband and three children.

Die Schwangere
~ pregnant in Karlsruhe ~

The other poets drink damson schnapps
from thistle-head glasses,

My baby flicker-kicks
with all five ounces of her weight,
with all four inches of her length.

I dream her hand
pipping from the egg of my belly
like a wing through shell,
I hold her embryonic fingers,
thrilling at her light touch.

Delighting in my blooming belly,
I feel my nestled passenger,
she flicks and settles, settles and kicks;
her cells gather, graceful as an origami swan
in perfect folds and re-folds.

In perfect folds and re-folds
her cells gather, graceful as an origami swan
she flicks and settles, settles and kicks;
I feel my nestled passenger
delighting in my blooming belly.

Thrilling at her light touch
I hold her embryonic fingers,
like a wing through shell,
pipping from the egg of my belly,
I dream her hand.

With all four inches of her length,
with all five ounces of her weight,
my baby flicker-kicks.

From thistle-head glasses
the other poets drink damson schnapps.

Frida Kahlo Visits Ballinasloe

Frida Kahlo likes to walk in colour,
but she is hard pushed on Society Street.

We wander together up Sarsfield Road;
‘Where is all the yellow,’ she asks, ‘the red?’

Frida, in a floral dress and Mexican silver,
draws a tidings of magpies from the sky.

‘No parrots,’ she says, ‘no hibiscus?’
Clouds part, a triangle of blue pleases her.

Then she sees a scarlet Massey Ferguson,
yew berries spilled like beads on the footpath,

A woman in a crimson coat and man’s shoes,
a King Charles with a postcard colleen’s curls,

Tail-lights like alien eyes spinning to Ahascragh;
‘Viva la vida,’ says unflinching Frida, painter of pain.

She sings the reds of Sarsfield Road and they bleed
into the veins of the town, pulsing its grey.

Copyright © Nuala Ní Chonchúir 2011
Review: The Juno Charm reviewed by David Harmer for Orbis, Spring 2012


There is much to admire in this collection of poems that can swing their mood from the nuances of ‘Menses’ - ‘Before the butterfly days / are the fly days / and before those / the days of the spider’ - to the earthy and often rural basics of poems like ‘Sofa’: ‘I squat by a farm-gate like a sneaky pisser/hunched low, arms bent, wearing ruin heavily.’
   The poet is herself the centre of the work and the work is centred on her experience. The cover notes make a reference to Blake and it is not without foundation. There are in this collection many examples of poems describing with a disarming simplicity the poet’s worldview, one which has often been hard earned, but of course that simplicity masks a richness of poetic sensibility at work beneath the surface. Here there are moments of profound love, of bitter betrayal, of childbirth and joy, of disquiet and of peace and all resting in a deep sense of the writer as a woman. It is no surprise to find a poem entitled ‘Poem Beginning with a Line by Plath’.
   Equally important, is the sense of the poet and the work being rooted firmly in a place. Sometimes she is in America, where a poem like ‘Chinatown, New York’ rings out a list of specific evidence line by chiming line glorying in the esoteric, the newly revealed ; or in ‘Valentine’s Day’ where the poet is in a Lexington Avenue hotel, with the sounds and smells of the city rising up to surround the lovers nestled in bed. ‘We steal heat through our skins / safe from the wind that hurtles up the island.’ These urgent, urban moments are often contrasted with calmer more reflective rhythms and with a sense of Irishness and the land itself. A good example is the poem ‘Galway’ where ‘Skirling origami swans decorate / the Claddagh basin while Galway / settles her night-shawl down, / boats and birds safe at her breast.’ One of the best poems ‘Dancing With Paul Durcan’ seems so deeply Irish and funny and mad that really I should quote it all. Two lines will have to do.

‘Paul,’ I said, ‘your poetry is filthy with longing.’
He said, ‘Would you like to dance?’

   At times there is a clunk or two, perhaps because the poet seems too knowing, too aware of her craft, giving us writing too arch for its own good. In ‘Airwaves’ for example we find a ‘newly-minted marriage’ which is scarcely original, in ‘Gull’ I wish the bridges didn’t ‘bracelet the river’ and the wedding breakfast in ‘This Is No Cana’ didn’t agree with me. However, these are rare moments. In the magnificent, enriching and boldly coloured ‘Frida Kahalo Visits Ballinasloe’, any such carpings are knocked away by a poet who sings out the belief in art, in the creative life, in the need for the mustering of perceptions, energies and strengths to fight against whatever painful, grey version of reality the artist and writer finds herself in:

‘Viva la vida,’ says unflinching Frida, painter of pain.

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